How do we maintain zen mind, beginner mind in our spiritual journey?
We always have something to learn even if it means making mistakes or misjudgments. With beginner’s mind, faith and failure are integral. We cannot learn if we feel we already know.
We do not expand without putting questions before us and contemplating them.
In the Zen tradition, zen mind, beginner mind is a state of reception and openness. It is a willingness to learn and the courage to take risks. These risks take the form of actions and importantly they take the form of vulnerability. We can approach any situation with beginner mind to gain access to a more meaningful experience.
With zen mind, beginner mind, we do not lose our knowledge and experience, but have all of the possibility of gaining more.
How often do we enter a situation feeling it has nothing to offer us. We know more. We have been there and done that. Our cleverness takes over without our even realizing it. We are sure there is nothing for us to learn from a situation. If we are not open to learning, we will never know if there actually was something there for us.
Zen Mind, Beginner Mind is a state of being in which we make ourselves susceptible to a larger teaching.
Suzuki says, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind, there are few.”
This month, students in the Awareness School are focusing on a question they themselves are choosing. They are to carry it around with them both literally and figuratively. They must refer to it often whether that means bringing it out of their pocket, seeing it on their phone, or putting it before them in contemplation. We are not focused on answers but on the openness of discovery. We are not focused on fixing or changing but seeing. We are setting cues and reminders to be open to vulnerable places within us and around us.
When our mind takes up the room of already knowing and labeling things as this or that, we no longer have space to discover. Because we are oriented mainly in our thinking, we have to find ways to step out of that limiting perspective.
The zen mind, beginner mind assumes nothing.
Scientists do not discover more by their assumptions but by striving for objectivity. This is a challenge for us all, but especially in the realm of Self. To see ourselves from a new and fresh perspective that is not possible through thinking is to have inner vision of the Beginner Mind.
Without Zen Mind, Beginner Mind, satori is unapproachable and the secrets of zen remain under lock and key. We can float about in an environment or school without ever truly entering the inner sanctum if we are not willing to “drop our ego”, so to speak.
The problem is that we don’t know how to drop our ego.
We can start by having an aim to do so with our willingness to learn. We make ourselves vulnerable to another human being as a teacher which feels altogether risky for most of us. In regular life, we have been burned too many times to reopen this child-like attitude.
Jesus said we must become like little children and to me this is Zen Mind/Beginner Mind.
A question can act as a koan to be held and not answered but “understood”.
The question may bring up striving, or mental anguish and strain; a kind of “crisis” because it cannot be answered by ordinary means. The “koan” serves this purpose and a good teacher will attempt to bring students to a point of crisis in order for the mind to leave it behind. They will feel backed up to a wall within themselves with nowhere to go. It is not to make them dependent on the teacher, but to come to a point within themselves that creates inner combustion.
When spiritual tension occurs, it requires the frustrated mind to be released, thus forcing the necessary parts of spirit, feeling and body to coincide and open to a flowering consciousness.
This tension may not have initially been brought on by one such question, but a series of inner experiences where something more is seen about oneself through beginner’s mind. Those experiences had to come from questioning what is actually occurring within.
It is at this precise moment that satori is possible.
You may know a burning question within you to use as your own “koan”. It may be something mysteriously unanswered within you. It may be beyond words in its scope but nevertheless persists in your inner landscape as something you have come to recognize through flavor.
Put the question before you without pressing the answer.
Place yourself in discovery mode.
Zen Mind, Beginner Mind
Let me know what happens.